Sri Lankan captain praises the two Mendises for getting campaign off to a good start
In the lead-up to the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 2012, the buzz surrounded Akila Dananjaya, the young spinner, and this allowed Ajantha Mendis to focus on what he needed to do in order to complete a successful comeback.
Out of the game for eight months because of a back injury, Mendis roared back into international cricket, ending with figures of 4-2-8-6.
Mahela Jayawardena, who has been a staunch supporter of Ajantha, was obviously pleased with the way things panned out. “In the domestic tournament, Mendis came back and bowled really well,” he said. “That was the indicator to see how match fit he was and how much control he had. Ajantha was very keen to get back into the side and we saw that hunger in him. We wanted to make sure that he went through the processes and got his back sorted out, which is why we kept him away for this long. He’s come back strongly and hopefully he’ll continue to do the job. I’m sure he’ll have bad days but the quality of the player is that he’ll have more good days than bad.”
While Ajantha won the Man of the Match award for his astonishing figures, Jayawardena made it a point to underscore the contribution of Jeevan Mendis, who set up the game in the first half.
“I knew the off-spinner’s overs were finished,” Jayawardena said, explaining Jeevan’s promotion up the order. “The leg-spinner was on and Jeevan is a very good player of spin. I didn’t want Sanga to take risks, but rather anchor the innings. He got off to a great start, and then continued so Sanga didn’t have to take risks. They built a good partnership and Jeevan is a busy player, a good guy to have in the team – bowls well, fields well, great all-round prospect for us.”
On the day, Jayawardena’s gamble paid off, but he was the first to concede that there might be days when things would not go as smoothly. “In our batting order, we want flexibility as much as possible so that we have right-hand-left-hand combinations,” he said. “Playing the extra batsman allowed us to do that today. Based on the conditions, the opposition and the situation we’ll use different guys as floaters at different times. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t but we’ll have to be brave enough to make those calls.”
Jayawardena also insisted that his team ensured that it did not take Zimbabwe lightly. “It was a tough game for us. On paper, it seems like it was easy but a team like Zimbabwe can be the surprise element, especially in the first round where you can make one mistake and be out of the tournament,” said Jayawardena. “We had spoken about the need to ensure that we were not complacent and make sure that we executed our game plan. Batting first on that wicket, we were also not sure how it was going to play and what kind of score we needed, so we were probably a bit conservative. We’ve started well, but we’re going to take it one game at a time.”